Practical considerations to integrating the Dynamics CRM Outlook Client and SharePoint Document Management Integration

By - October 31, 2011

The native SharePoint integration into Microsoft Dynamics CRM has caused a lot of excitement over the last few months. The powerful document management capability of SharePoint combined with the ease of access to documents when working within a Dynamics CRM record like Accounts, Contacts or Opportunities has been well documented in a number of articles and blog posts. However, as we began implementing this integration, it raised some usability questions.

One of the features we love about Dynamics CRM is the Outlook integration. The combination of Dynamics CRM 2011 and Outlook 2010 has had great productivity increases to our clients as they utilize their Dynamics CRM system. We have developed best practice work processes around activity management, account/contact management, and opportunity management through the Outlook interface for our clients. We coach our clients to live in their primary tool, Outlook, and focus on how to complete their work and tasks within this toolset. As a result of the process steps we teach them, Dynamics CRM is updated during the natural course of the workday and not seen as an additional data entry effort by staff members, and management gets the reporting and visibility they want because data is entered into the system.

With the integration of SharePoint to Dynamics CRM, we were looking forward to adding document management to the work processes we coach, however we found a couple of rough spots while working with a client:

  • When we received documents via email from clients, we wanted to save the email into Dynamics CRM, and then save the documents into SharePoint.
    • The number of clicks to save the document into SharePoint from an email wasn’t efficient in the out of the box method.
    • If we completed the save of the documents in SharePoint, and we tracked the email in Dynamics CRM, the documents would be uploaded into the old Attachments area; now the document existed twice: once in the Dynamics CRM database and once in SharePoint.
    • As a result if we utilized cloud solutions for Dynamics CRM and SharePoint, we paid for document storage space twice.
    • If we removed the documents from the email before tracking, but the documents were referenced in the email we had no easy way to access the documents being referenced.
  • When we create emails in Outlook to send to our clients, we wanted an easy way to access the documents to attach them to outbound emails. There was not a convenient way to do this out of the Dynamics CRM SharePoint document folder.

We found a solution for the client that is a SharePoint add-in to Outlook. Benefits include:

  • Ability to save attachments in an email to SharePoint. Attachments are detached and instead, links to the SharePoint location are stored.
  • When the email is tracked in Dynamics CRM, the URL references are stored, so the document is only saved once.
  • If the email doesn’t need to be tracked, the file can be dragged and dropped into the appropriate SharePoint Library.
  • You have the ability to update the metadata by clicking on the file and updating the metadata in a properties window.
  • When you send an outbound email, the file can be copied as a document or hyperlink and pasted in the email for reference.
  • Documents can be checked out from within Outlook, modified, and then saved back to the SharePoint location.
  • You have the ability to search all document libraries from within Outlook to return applicable results.

There are a number of other benefits this tool provides however we have been impressed with how it enables us to help our clients remain effective and productive through the Outlook interface combining the benefits of Dynamics CRM and SharePoint.

If you are using SharePoint with Dynamics CRM, our SharePoint Authentication Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM can also eliminate the need to maintain two separate contact records.  Contact our professionals at 855.437.7202 to learn more about how we can help with your integration needs.

By: Bill Caldwell – Colorado Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

Follow Bill on Google+

Bill Caldwell is a director and lead Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant in the Denver, Colorado practice.  Bill is a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant and specializes in customizations, reports, customized queries and integrations.  Bill is an active member of the Dynamics community since joining RSM in 2007.  Bill is also experienced with the Microsoft development suites, which includes SQL Server, Visual Studio.Net and SQL Server Reporting Services.  Prior to this, Bill spent five years working in industry as an accountant and financial analyst. Contact Information: Email: Phone: 303.298.6465 Follow Bill on Google+

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